Setting running goals when you’re slowing down

older man running

Time waits for no one, as those of us who obsess over chip times know too well. Much of the thrill and focus of running boils down to bettering ourselves, and that usually means covering the same courses and distances faster than we ever have before. But there comes a time when we are no longer able to outrun ourselves. Age catches up, and at some point it becomes painfully clear that our fastest days are behind us.

older female runner

But slowing down doesn’t mean all our PBs are suddenly set in stone or that we’re unable to achieve new firsts as runners. As we mature as runners, so too can the nature of our goals. Stop the clock and consider these alternatives to time-centric goalsetting.

go the distance

Running to set a personal best based on distance can add depth and variety to goalsetting. Going farther than you ever have is a challenge equally suited to longtime runners who have been building their fitness and endurance over years and decades, and fledgling runners who are taking up the activity later in life. The beauty of distance-based goalsetting is that it invites creativity. You might want to challenge yourself to finish your first ultra. Those more inclined to stick to shorter routes might find weekly, monthly or yearly distance goals a better fit. Runners in their retirement years who may now have more opportunities to travel can try smashing their record for most miles run outside Canada in a single year. Couples who have more time to connect can strive for new records for distances run together. Distance goals can be tailored to meet just about any runner’s strengths and schedule.

Get on a hot streak

Being consistent is both one of running’s greatest virtues and steepest challenges. Aiming to see a streak through to a new PB can really test your mettle, but it’s a goal that’s accessible to runners of all abilities. Streak-setting doesn’t exclude the super-speedy, like New Zealand’s Nick Willis, who last year marked his 20th straight year of running a sub-four-minute mile. That said, successful streaks can be a well-earned source of pride for runners who stick with running 1 km every day for a month, or 10 km every month of the year. Like distance-focused goals, streak targets are limited only by a runner’s imagination.

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Consider non-performance goals

Slowing down offers us an opportunity to reflect on our relationship with running and to consider ways to make it deeper and more meaningful. An option worth considering is making the shift to a more supportive role. This might mean crewing a friend or family member’s attempt at an ultra-marathon, or dispensing water or medals as a volunteer at an upcoming half-marathon. Volunteering can also be a pathway to becoming a vital part of a world-famous race you always wanted to experience in-person but never got the chance to as a competitor.

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